TRENTON, N.J. – Former Gov. James E. McGreevey revealed during an interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey that he was having an affair with another man while his wife was hospitalized for the birth of their child, according to audience members.
America's first openly gay governor told Winfrey he believed he was in love with the man, who would become a central figure in his downfall, said two audience members who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity. Winfrey asked them not to divulge the contents of the broadcast, which was taped in Chicago on Tuesday.
A dozen friends of McGreevey who attended had to sign confidentiality agreements for Regan Books, which is publishing McGreevey's political memoir. The hour-long program will be broadcast Sept. 19, the day McGreevey's much-anticipated "The Confession," hits bookstores and he embarks on a national book tour.
McGreevey, 49, received national on Aug. 12, 2004, when he said he had been involved in an affair with a man and would resign. McGreevey later identified the man as Golan Cipel, though Cipel has repeatedly denied being gay. The lawyer who represented Cipel, Allen Lowy, would not comment Wednesday.
In the interview, the audience members said Winfrey explores McGreevey's lifelong struggle with his sexuality.
McGreevey recounted going to the library as an adolescent to look up the word "homosexual" in a dictionary. When he found it included terms like "perverse" and "psychiatric disorder," the Irish-Catholic said he quickly learned to repress his feelings, audience members said.
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from a list of mental disorders in 1973.
The interview also explores how McGreevey came out to his wife and parents, how his life is more authentic today, and what life is like with Australian financial adviser Mark O'Donnell, whom he refers to as his "life partner," the audience members said.
O'Donnell also appears on the program, audience members said.
McGreevey has been publicly silent since stepping from the public eye. A lawyer, he has pursued education policy initiatives, including work on behalf of a Kean University campus in China.
Winfrey landed the interview with McGreevey because of her sense of faith and spirituality, according to friends of the former governor. McGreevey is said to be a fan of Winfrey's education and anti-poverty work, two issues to which the former governor is devoting more time in his post-political life.